WASHINGTON'S HISTORIC Anthony Bowen YMCA remains boarded up and out of business in the heart of the Shaw neighborhood after a year of internal feuding--a dead testament to sorry leadership of this organization, from its central headquarters to the neighborhood groups involved. Whatever the original disagreements may have been over the shape, safety and future of this building, a reasonable compromise was proposed months ago by a responsible mediator--only to be ignored in favor of petty squabbling and bitterness. If the YMCA is to uphold its good name in Greater Washington, some of the main figures in this dispute had best step aside and let cooler heads prevail.
The mess began when YMCA officials declared the Bowen facility unsafe and closed it quite suddenly, leaving neighborhood kids in the lurch and adults with suspicions that these Y leaders had intentionally allowed the building to deterioriate and become too expensive to maintain. Mayor Barry tapped Sterling Tucker to mediate the dispute, and Mr. Tucker put together a sensible package of proposals. He suggested that the city take title to the Bowen building and preserve it as a historic landmark; that the Y operate a satellite facility on the site it owns next to the Bowen building; and that that the Y get another site from the city for a modern, full-service facility.
The most important point was--and still is--to maintain the presence of the Y in Shaw, which has depended on the Bowen Y as an oasis in a neighborhood with many less-than-uplifting alternatives for young people. That is what the neighborhood representatives in this effort are still seeking. But this week, Thomas Hargrave, president of the Metropolitan YMCA, declined to discuss any of the Bowen issues.
On Feb. 25 last year, we said "we consider the Bowen closing an emergency--and if the YMCA will just respond to it as well as it has in the past to this city's youth, it will find a way to maintain its constructive presence in Shaw without a damaging break in service." Today, the Y is not responding, and its failure to do so is disgraceful.